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PFT's Week Two picks

[Editor’s note:  Each week, Rosenthal and I will go head to head,
picking the winner of each game.  The guy who does worse each week gets
to be the one to copy and paste together the text the next week.  Last week, we tied.  The NBC Competition Committee decided that I should have to copy and paste it all together again.  And so I’ll take the high road and accept the ruling.  In three days, after everyone applauds me for taking the high road, I’ll bitch about it on the radio.]

[UPDATE:  As it turns out, we didn’t tie.  Rosenthal won.  And I should have kept my damn mouth shut when I realized that he’d counted his victories incorrectly.]

Bills at Packers

Florio’s take:  In Week Two of the 2009 season, the Packers hosted an AFC team, and the AFC team stole a win.  In Win Two of the 2010 season, another AFC team comes to town.  But there’s a big difference between last year’s Bengals and this year’s Bills.  Even with Packers running back Ryan Grant done for the year, Green Bay has too much talent — and the Bills don’t have nearly enough.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 42, Bills 19.

Rosenthal’s take: This reminds me of the blowout specials Florio used to get to pick last year when we split the workload.  You could try to make a case for the Bills, but you’d be trying too hard.  Buffalo doesn’t have the receiver depth to test Green Bay’s secondary.  The Bills’ three-headed running game was oddly underused last week.  Their screens were predictable.  Holes closed on C.J. Spiller a lot faster than they did at Clemson or in the preseason.  Don’t expect daylight this week. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 27, Bills 10.

Dolphins at Vikings

Florio’s take:  The Vikings’ offense and the Dolphins’ defense cancel each other out.  So this one will come down to the ability of the Minnesota defense to bottle up the Miami offense.  Given that the Bills were able to keep the attack largely in check last week, the Vikings should have no problems shutting them down.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 24, Dolphins 12.

Rosenthal’s take: Miami’s defense was impressive in Buffalo.  Mike Nolan did a lot of fun things with Karlos Dansby and Cameron Wake; they can get pressure on Brett Favre. Even short a few players, this is an improved linebacker group.  Favre also may not be ready to take advantage of a Dolphins secondary that features Benny Sappy a little too prominently.  There’s an old axiom that you shouldn’t pick a team to cover the spread unless you think they can win. 5.5 points feels like too much.  So let’s just go all the way and take the Dolphins in an upset special.  (I changed this pick at the last minute, which is the kiss of death.)  [Editor’s note:  Hey, Rosey, if you’re gonna pick the upset, just pick the upset and be done with it.]

Rosenthal’s pick: Dolphins 23, Vikings 21.

Chiefs at Browns

Florio’s take:  With former Patriot Scott Pioli running the Chiefs and former Patriot turncoat Eric Mangini coaching the Browns, this one carries a strong undercurrent of hostility.  Then there’s the fact that Browns running back Jerome Harrison shredded the K.C. defense for 286 yards last December.  Look for the new-look Chiefs to bring their new attitude to Ohio, and to send the Browns to a loss in the second of two games that most expected Cleveland to win.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 20, Browns 13.

Rosenthal’s take: Remember all the positive energy in Kansas City on Monday night?  Imagine that, but the complete opposite happening in Cleveland if the Browns fall behind Sunday.  Jake Delhomme’s injury doesn’t hurt the Browns, though.  Seneca Wallace is different, and could force the Browns coaches to get creative with a roster that begs for creativity to make up for a lack of talent.  Eric Mangini can’t afford to lose the Belichick B-team Bowl after last week’s collapse in Tampa.  Romeo Crennel knows just how to lose in Cleveland.

Rosenthal’s pick: Browns 17, Chiefs 14.

Bears at Cowboys

Florio’s take:  The Bears lucked into a win at home and the Cowboys squandered a victory of their own on the road.  This week, the Cowboys head back to Dallas, 25 years after the Bears authored a 44-0 beatdown of the ‘Boys.  The Bears haven’t won in Big D since the year after that game — and their streak of futility will continue.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 24, Bears 10.

Rosenthal’s take: No clue what to make of the Bears after last week.   Jay Cutler moved the ball very well, Matt Forte is revived, and the defense stuffed Detroit all day.  Yet they still needed a lucky call to save them from an opening loss at home.  The Cowboys are easier to read.  Their offensive line has problems and they know it.  The defense is great.  Will the return of two injured, older starting lineman be enough to turn things around?  It’s enough this week.

Rosenthal’s pick: Cowboys 24, Bears 20.

Cardinals at Falcons

Florio’s take:  The Cards barely beat a still-bad Rams team last week, and the Falcons gave fits to the Steelers on their home field.  Atlanta realizes that the window will close quickly if they can’t keep pace with the Saints.  Besides, Falcons are far more menacing birds.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 28, Cardinals 20.

Rosenthal’s take: Arizona fans complaining about style points last week need to get a grip.  Kurt Warner has left the building.  This is a different Cardinals team, and they are going to have to win creatively while Derek Anderson figures things out. The guy led two impressive fourth-quarter drives last week and that will do for now.  Matt Ryan, on the other hand, has struggled to move the ball since the preseason.  I think Atlanta’s improved defense carries the day here.  Both these teams deserve to be 1-1. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 19, Cardinals 14. 

Buccaneers at Panthers

Florio’s take:  Since 2003, the Panthers have handled the Bucs on 11 of 14 occasions.  Though Tampa pulled off a minor surprise on Sunday against the Browns, the Panthers can be expected to take care of business on their own turf.  If they can’t, Carolina could be 0-5 at the bye.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 24, Buccaneers 14.

Rosenthal’s take: The Bucs have a golden opportunity to go 2-0, even if Panthers starting quarterback Matt Moore plays as expected despite a concussion last week.  Raheem Morris has the Bucs defense looking improved, like they did at the end of last year.  These two similar teams fly well below the NFL radar and got against current league norms.  They want to win with running, defense, and not screwing things up too badly passing the ball.  John Fox has more practice.  And better running backs. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Panthers 20, Bucs 13.

Eagles at Lions

Florio’s take:  With Mike Vick making his first start since 2006, the question becomes whether he can play like he did against the Packers, who weren’t prepared to face him, when facing a Lions team that knows Vick will be the guy.  Lions coach Jim Schwartz never has had to defend Vick; when Schwartz served as defensive coordinator for the Titans, Schwartz’s team was the last one to play the Falcons before Vick returned from a broken leg.  Look for Schwartz to try to keep Vick in the pocket in the hopes that he’ll be forced to throw — and that he’ll force a few mistakes.  And then Kevin Kolb will get “healthy” quickly.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 20, Eagles 13.

Rosenthal’s take: The battle of the tortured fan bases.  The rest of the world learned about what it meant to be a Lions fan this week.  Week One, full of hope, they lost their young franchise quarterback and a game in the most painful way possible.  The Lions have a vertical passing attack with the weakest-armed quarterback in the league in Shaun Hill.  Eagles fans have it pretty good, but they like drama.  They talked up Kevin Kolb all offseason, then gave up on him after 30 minutes.  It’s hard to blame them after the way Michael Vick played last week.  Vick will put it to the Lions just to make this whole situation more ridiculous.

Rosenthal’s pick: Eagles 27, Lions 16.

Ravens at Bengals

Florio’s take:  The Bengals somehow swept the Ravens last year.  It won’t be happening again in 2010.  Baltimore looks as good as they ever have looked, and the Bengals looked nothing like they looked a year ago.  Look for Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis to continue to drop the hammer on anyone who looks in his direction.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 23, Bengals 9.

Rosenthal’s take: The Bengals defense said they were confused early against the Patriots.  So were guys like Tedy Bruschi that picked Cincinnati to go to the Super Bowl.  At least the Bengals passing attack showed signs of life after the early disaster.  It may have been garbage time, but Carson Palmer couldn’t put up big stats any time last year.  Unlike the Jets, Cincinnati has the weapons to take advantage of Baltimore’s secondary.

Rosenthal’s pick: Bengals 27, Ravens 23.

Steelers at Titans

Florio’s take:  Last year, these two teams kicked off a season that many assumed would end in a playoff rematch.  Neither qualified for the postseason.  This year, both look like they’re on their way to another trip to January.  It all comes down to the Steelers defense against the Titans offense, and the Steelers defense is simply too tough.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 13, Titans 9.

Rosenthal’s take: The Titans were my pick to win the AFC South in the PFT Season Preview, so I’m basically going to take them at home unless they are facing the ’85 Bears.  The Steelers defense isn’t at that level, but it could wind up being the best in 2010.  Pittsburgh can neutralize Chris Johnson — they held him to 57 yards in last year’s opener.  So it will come down Vince Young versus Dennis Dixon and Young should be up for the challenge. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Titans 14, Steelers 10.

Seahawks at Broncos

Florio’s take:  Former Broncos quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who was essentially run off when Josh McDaniels became the head coach, returns to town with a team that unexpectedly won in Week One by 25 points.  But it’s one thing to put a pasting on the 49ers at home in the season opener, it’s quite another to do it in Denver.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 24, Seahawks 17.

Rosenthal’s take: These teams that are a total mystery, especially the Seahawks.  Can Seattle play so inspired without the 12th man?  What is this team good at precisely?  It looks like Pete Carroll is going to make this defense better and more interesting.  The offense has work to do.  In Denver, I know what I’m getting from Kyle Orton and his band of merry secondary receivers.  The Broncos can beat suspect NFC West teams at home.

Rosenthal’s pick: Broncos 28, Seahawks 21.

Rams at Raiders

Florio’s take:  The Rams looked better than expected in Week One; the Raiders looked far worse.  But Oakland is at home and the Rams are still learning how to win.  Though neither team will be embarrassed, look for the Raiders to take care of business in the Black Hole.

Florio’s pick: Raiders 17, Rams 10.

Rosenthal’s take: The optimism stops here for one of these teams. The Raiders wouldn’t be able to sell progress after a blowout loss on the road and a home loss to the Rams.  Sam Bradford has given the Rams hope for the future, but the present looks awfully bleak if they go 0-2 with a soft opening schedule.  Two Raiders, including Jason Campbell, alluded to being overconfident heading into the Titans game.  You know, because of their draft grades.  Losing 11 or more games for seven years hasn’t humbled this franchise.  Maybe losing to the Rams will. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Rams 21, Raiders 17.

Texans at Redskins

Florio’s take:  The reunion of the Shanahans and Gary Kubiak adds intrigue to a game that suddenly has become one of the best of the weekend give the teams’ performances in Week One.  We’ll quickly find out whether Houston tailback Arian Foster rolled up all those yards because he played against a bad run defense or because the Texans have become the ultimate “pick your poison” pass/run attack.  And we’ll find out whether the Redskins’ offense can score a touchdown or two without having it handed to them.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 27, Redskins 24.

Rosenthal’s take: Matt Schaub and Gary Kubiak are road favorites coming off a huge win. This is exactly the game they usually trip over, which worries me. Also worrisome:  Every aspect of the Redskins offense except their tackle play.  (How odd is that?)  Washington just doesn’t have enough firepower to hang with Houston, who should give Arian Foster a break and only rush him 25 times this week. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Texans 24, Redskins 17.

Patriots at Jets

Florio’s take:  During an offseason of incessant Jets chirping, the Patriots have remained largely silent.  Apart from Tom Brady’s acknowledgement that he hates the Jets, the Pats have avoided the trash talk.  Instead, the Patriots have saved it for the field, and the Jets may have a hard time saving themselves as the Pats make the only kind of statement that truly matters in football.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 35, Jets 13.

Rosenthal’s take: What goes up in the NFL usually comes down. And vice versa.  An overconfident team loses one week, gets ripped, and plays hungry the next time out.  Last year, Rex Ryan called the Jets’ Week Two game against the Patriots the team’s Super Bowl.  This one is far more important.  The Jets know they can’t go 0-2 at home to start the year. The Jets defense still looks great. The offense can find a way on the ground.  Don’t crown the Patriots yet; this will be a season-long battle.



Rosenthal’s pick: Jets 20, Patriots 16.

Jaguars at Chargers

Florio’s take:  Most expected one of these teams to be 1-0 and the other to be 0-1; few expected that the Jaguars would be undefeated and that the Chargers would be winless.  Though it may feel like a home game for the Jaguars since the stadium will be partially empty (rim shot!), the Chargers have the horses to get back to 1-1 against a Jaguars team that overachieved against the Broncos.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 30, Jaguars 21.

Rosenthal’s take: The Chargers talked all offseason about avoiding yet another slow start to the year, and then slogged through a loss in the Kansas City rain.  Weather should be more conducive to vertical passing in San Diego this week. I don’t trust either secondary or either pass rush, even if Aaron Kampman looks like a fine pickup.  I’ll take Philip Rivers in a shootout over David Garrard every time.

Rosenthal’s pick: Chargers 34, Jaguars 26.
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Giants at Colts

Florio’s take:  Peyton Manning has started 0-1 only three times in his 13-year career.  Only once, as a rookie in 1998, has Peyton Manning begun a season at 0-2.  This time around, Peyton takes an 0-1 mark into his second career game against his kid brother.  And more importantly than not going 0-2 to Peyton will be avoiding losing to Eli.  Sometimes, it really is that simple.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 31, Giants 19.

Rosenthal’s take: Both brothers have grown up a lot since the last Manning Bowl.  Peyton won a Super Bowl and did the United Way spot on Saturday Night Live.  Eli won a Super Bowl, got significantly better after the title, and adjusted his Southern fraternity mop top.  That makes this a fair fight, especially if the Giants pass rush has truly reawakened.  Fair, but not equal.  Peyton is still the one with MVPs and Peyton doesn’t start the year 0-2.

Rosenthal’s pick: Colts 34, Giants 30.

Saints at 49ers

Florio’s take:  Rarely if ever has a team with high expectations imploded as quickly as the 49ers.  They open their home schedule with a visit from the Saints, who will have had the longest possible non-bye-week time to prepare for the game, playing on a Thursday and next on the following Monday, 11 days later.  After the game, Niners coach Mike Singletary will be thanking Sean Payton in the same way Singletary thanked Pete Carroll.  

Florio’s pick:  Saints 30, 49ers 13.

Rosenthal’s take: Weirdly dangerous game for the Saints against an ornery 49ers team.  New Orleans fans don’t like that I questioned their run defense this week, but one game doesn’t erase all of last season and a shaky linebacker group.  Luckily, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams doesn’t have to get too creative to stop Alex Smith and the 49ers passing attack.  Load up the box, and dare Smith to beat you.  The Saints are in Payton/Brees version 5.0.  The essentially can do anything they choose with a veteran group of receivers.  The 49ers can’t get the play calls in on time.

Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 27, 49ers 21.

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Report: Brady was open to accepting a one-game suspension on Monday

Tom Brady AP

Nearly two weeks ago, when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady missed work a day before an August 19 court hearing, Brady was willing (as PFT and others have reported) to accept a one-game suspension for not cooperating with the NFL’s #DeflateGate investigation. After the August 19 hearing, during which Judge Richard M. Berman subjected the league’s lawyers to a variety of tough questions, Brady’s camp seemed to retreat.

As of Monday, Brady was once again ready to consider striking a deal.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Brady was open to serving a one-game suspension for failure to cooperate. Like 13 days ago, however, it never got to that point due to the NFL’s insistence on Brady admitting to guilt, knowledge, and/or responsibility in connection with the alleged deflation of footballs.

Via Gary Myers of the New York Daily News, the league was willing to cut the suspension to three games, if Brady were to admit guilt. Previously, PFT was told that the NFL would at least cut the suspension in half, if Brady acknowledged that he was not innocent. Myers also reports that Brady was willing to pay a fine for not cooperating.

The question of what Brady would have done is irrelevant, since the NFL’s position prevented negotiations from ever accelerating.

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The “do you want RGIII?” questions are starting

Todd Bowles AP

Now that Washington may be moving on from quarterback Robert Griffin III, the task of finding a potential new destination begins. And with it comes the inevitable effort to lure another team into a tampering violation.

It started on Monday, when a reporter asked coach Todd Bowles whether the Jets have interest in Griffin.

“He’s on the Redskins and we have our guys right now,” Bowles said. “That’s not my concern.”

That’s all Bowles could have said about the situation. But that won’t stop reporters who either don’t know the rule or want to generate a story line from asking the question.

Bowles, a first-year head coach, is smart enough to know how to handle himself with that topic. It doesn’t hurt that the Jets were fined $100,000 earlier this year for tampering with Darrelle Revis, after owner Woody Johnson failed to realize that loaded questions regarding players under contract with other teams should be avoided.

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Will Washington cut Robert Griffin III?

Detroit Lions v Washington Redskins Getty Images

With quarterback Robert Griffin III relegated to No. 2 (or possibly No. 3) on the depth chart in D.C., the question becomes whether the team will pay $3.249 million in 2015 to someone other than a starting quarterback.

They just might do that, for several reasons.

First, $3.249 million isn’t a crazy number for a veteran backup quarterback. Matt Schaub will get $3 million this year in Baltimore. Matthew Hasselbeck will receive $3 million in Indy. Chase Daniel will make $3.75 million this year from the Chiefs, along with a $1 million bonus allocation from 2013.

Second, Washington has a ridiculously low total commitment to quarterbacks. Kirk Cousins is making $660,000 this year, and Colt McCoy (who received a $150,000 signing bonus) will make a base salary of $850,000, along with $31.250 for each game he’s on the active roster. It’s a payout of $1.375 million. So that’s a total of $5.284 million for three quarterbacks.

Third, Washington may still need Griffin to play at some point this year. Cousins, after a promising couple of games in 2014 after Robert Griffin III dislocated his ankle, played poorly on a Thursday night against the Giants. Eventually, Cousins landed on the bench.

McCoy wasn’t much better, while suggests that eventually Griffin’s number will be called. Assuming he’s cleared to play.

Besides, Washington owes Griffin his $3.249 million whether he’s on the roster or not, and regardless of whether another team (like maybe the Eagles) signs him. So why not pay him and keep him?

Playing him still entails a significant risk. If he suffers an injury that keeps him from playing in 2016, Washington will be on the hook for $16.1 million in 2016, due to the decision to pick up his fifth-year option.

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Lawyers are bracing for Tuesday ruling from Judge Berman

Richard M. Berman AP

During 18 years of practicing law, I once showed up for a court-ordered mediation session in a case where the two sides were very far apart in their settlement positions. Scheduled to last three hours, the meeting began with the mediator asking the two sides to state their current positions. Fifteen minutes later, the mediator said, “Well, we can either sit here and look at each other for the next two hours and forty-five minutes, or we can go do something useful with our time.”

That’s basically what happened in a Manhattan federal court today during the third and final attempt to try to settle the litigation arising from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension. And for good reason; the NFL continues to refuse to even discuss a reduced suspension until Brady makes some sort of an admission regarding knowledge of whatever the equipment guys were or weren’t doing.

So now the two sides will play the waiting game. And they won’t have to wait long. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the lawyers currently expect a decision from Judge Richard M. Berman on Tuesday.

Whenever it comes, a decision could take several different forms. Later tonight, I’ll make a list of all the potential outcomes. Which guarantees that it will be an outcome that I didn’t anticipate.

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Raiders waive Kenbrell Thompkins

Kenbrell Thompkins, Tyrann Mathieu AP

Two years ago, receiver Kenbrell Thompkins became a pleasant surprise from the Patriots, catching 32 passes for 466 yards in 12 games as an undrafted rookie.

Last year, the Patriots decided to move on from Thompkins after only two appearances. He landed with the Raiders, and he finished the year with 12 appearances and six starts.

This year, there will be no starts with the Raiders; per a league source, Thompkins has been waived.

He’ll now be available on waivers to any interested team. If he clears waivers, he’ll become a free agent.

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Raiders cut Trent Richardson

Trent Richardson AP

One of the biggest draft busts in recent memory may have reached the end of the line.

Trent Richardson, the running back selected third overall in the 2012 draft, has been released by the Raiders, according to ESPN.

Richardson had a disappointing rookie season with the Browns after going third overall, and was then traded to the Colts for a first-round pick. A complete disaster in Indianapolis, Richardson was cut this offseason. The Raiders picked him up, but he did not impress in the preseason.

Realistically, it’s hard to see any other team giving Richardson a chance after he was such a dismal failure in all three of his stops. At age 25, this once-promising running back has probably played his last snap in the NFL.

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If Cousins can’t cut his interceptions, Gruden can’t stick with him

Jacksonville Jaguars v Washington Redskins Getty Images

Washington coach Jay Gruden insists that Kirk Cousins is his quarterback for the 2015 season. Don’t be surprised if Gruden changes his mind.

Gruden has already changed his mind before: He changed his mind about Robert Griffin III when he proclaimed Cousins the starter today, and Gruden changed his mind about Cousins last year when he benched Cousins for Colt McCoy. So we know Gruden isn’t a man to stick to his guns at the quarterback position.

And we also know that Cousins is a quarterback who gives his coaches ample reason to bench him. In his three-year NFL career, Cousins has thrown 19 interceptions out of 407 passes. That’s a terrible rate of 4.7 percent of all of his passes being intercepted — nearly double the league-wide rate of 2.5 percent of passes being intercepted. According to ESPN, Cousins is the only quarterback in the NFL to average more than one turnover for every 30 snaps over the last two years.

For all the criticism Griffin receives, he doesn’t throw interceptions anywhere near as often as Cousins. Griffin has thrown interceptions on just 2.2 percent of his passes in his NFL career, meaning Cousins gets picked off more than twice as often as Griffin.

That’s an area where Cousins simply has to improve. If not, Gruden is going to change his mind again.

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Josh Boyce among Patriots’ cuts

Josh Boyce AP

When the Patriots selected TCU wide receiver Josh Boyce in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL draft, they thought he had the potential to be a big-play player both on their offense and on special teams. It hasn’t worked out that way.

The Patriots announced today that Boyce has been released after two years with the team.

As a rookie the Patriots gave Boyce plenty of opportunities, but he ended the season with just nine catches for 121 yards, plus nine kickoff returns for 214 yards. In 2014 Boyce was largely phased out, playing only in the meaningless Week 17 game and never touching the ball.

Also cut by the Patriots today were receiver Jonathan Krause, tight end Jimmay Mundine, defensive lineman Joe Vellano and linebacker Dekoda Watson.

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Where will RGIII be in three years?

Detroit Lions v Washington Redskins Getty Images

Three years ago, Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III was preparing to take the league by storm. A lot has happened since then.

Three years from now, where will Griffin be?

That’s the subject of the poll question for Monday’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN. Answer below, then tune in at 6:00 p.m. ET for the show.

During the show, Rodney Harrison, Paul Burmeister, and yours truly will talk about the Griffin situation, along with plenty of other stuff. Enough stuff to fill up an entire half hour.

See you then. Which is a subtle way of persuading you to watch, by presuming that you will.

It probably would have been more effective if I’d simply stopped at, “See you then.”

So, see you then.

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Julius Thomas seeking second opinion, may miss four weeks

Julius Thomas AP

Julius Thomas’s tenure in Jacksonville is not off to a great start.

Thomas, the tight end who landed with the Jaguars in a big free-agent signing, has missed the last two preseason games with a hand injury. And now he may miss another month.

Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said today that Thomas is getting a second opinion and may need surgery on his hand. If Thomas does need surgery, the recovery time would be four weeks. Which means Thomas could miss the first few games of the regular season.

A few games is not a big deal in the grand scheme of the five-year, $46 million contract Thomas signed with the Jaguars. But this is not the way the Jaguars were hoping Thomas would begin his tenure when he signed that deal.

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Rex announces Tyrod Taylor after “change of heart” on secrecy

Rex Ryan AP

Bills coach Rex Ryan has said for weeks that he would not announce the winner of his team’s quarterback competition. And then today he made the announcement.

Ryan confirmed today that Tyrod Taylor will start Week One against the Colts. Previously, Ryan said he wouldn’t announce the Bills’ Week One starter because he didn’t want to give the Colts any edge. But today Ryan said he had a “change of heart” about that and thought it made more sense to proclaim publicly that the franchise is behind Taylor as its quarterback.

The decision to start Taylor suggests that the Bills think the way they can win this year is by playing good defense and keeping the ball on the ground on offense. Taylor is unproven as a passer, but he may be the fastest quarterback in the NFL, and his running threat will make the Bills — who are already deep at running back — one of the NFL’s best running teams.

In fact, the Bills may even play offense a bit like Ryan’s Jets did in last year’s Monday night game against the Dolphins. On that night, the Jets ran the ball 49 times and threw the ball only 13 times, and they almost pulled off an upset of Miami. Ryan’s Bills may very well lead the league in rushing attempts.

But there will be times when the Bills need a quarterback who can throw the ball. And if Taylor can’t deliver, it won’t be a surprise if Ryan has another “change of heart” and switches to Matt Cassel.

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NFL changes auction procedures after AFC title game mishap

images Getty Images

The AFC Championship Game between the Patriots and Colts remains best known for #DeflateGate, which has prompted the NFL to change the way it handles footballs. A lesser-known glitch from that same game also has prompted the league to make a change.

In a memo sent last week to all teams, the NFL informed all teams that it has changed the way it harvests game-used footballs for auction. Basically, the league office no longer will be doing the harvesting.

“NFL Auction employees will no longer carry jerseys and other game-used items with them from games,” the memo from Jeff Pash, Troy Vincent, and Anna Isaacson to all teams said in a memo that PFT has obtained. “Instead, when Auction employees are onsite, they will coordinate prior to the game with the club’s equipment manager and meet them postgame to photograph items to be provided for sale on NFL Auction. This will enable the items to be posted quickly on the Auction website to capitalize on timing and interest. In all cases, however, shipping will go directly from the club to The Hibbert Group.”

In January, former NFL employee Scott Miller removed a kicking ball from play in the first half of the AFC title game, sparking a chain of events that resulted in an erroneous ESPN report that the Patriots had tried to introduce an unapproved kicking ball into the game. Miller later was fired, as PFT reported in February.

The specific events, as chronicled in the Ted Wells report, remain unclear, but the Patriots were exonerated of any wrongdoing as to that specific portion of the investigation. Moving forward, there will be no room for confusion in matters of this nature, since NFL employees will not remove footballs or other game-used items from the game site, either during or after the contests. Instead, the teams will be sending the materials directly to the auction house that sells the items.

NFL employees will be responsible for taking photographs of items to be auctioned after the game, and then to compare the photos from the game site to photos taken by the auction house to ensure authenticity.

It still seems that the best way to ensure authenticity is to have an NFL employee physically remove the item and deliver it to the auction house. Apparently, however, there was a flaw in that process sufficiently fatal to prompt the NFL to completely abandon it.

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Seahawks make their moves, including cutting projected center

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

In addition to pawning off unwanted wide receiver Kevin Norwood to the Panthers in a pre-deadline trade, the Seahawks have announced the rest of the moves they’ll need to get to the 75-man roster limit.

The team announced 14 other moves, as they did the work they need to do a day ahead of time.

The biggest name among those cut was Lemuel Jeanpierre. While perhaps not a household name, he did head into camp as their projected starting center, after dealing Max Unger to the Saints in the Jimmy Graham trade.

The Seahawks line is in a reasonable degree of flux anyway, and this cut leaves the job to Drew Nowak for the moment.

They also released defensive tackle D’Anthony Smith, and waived tackle Jesse Davis, cornerback George Farmer, wide receivers Deshon Foxx and Deontay Greenberry, cornerback Keelan Johnson, linebacker Quayshawn Nealy, defensive end Greg Scruggs and safety Ty Zimmerman.

They also waived/injured fullback Brandon Cottom and cornerback Triston Wade, and placed cornerback Jeremy Lane and wide receiver Paul Richardson on reserve/PUP, meaning Lane and Richardson will miss at least the first six weeks of the season.

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Report: Seahawks trading Norwood to Panthers

Kevin Norwood AP

The Seahawks will trade wide receiver Kevin Norwood to the Panthers, according to a report from Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

A fourth-round pick in 2014, Norwood caught nine passes in games as a rookie. Earlier Monday, Wilson reported that the Seahawks were going to waive Norwood.

The Panthers didn’t have a stellar receiving corps even before the loss of Kelvin Benjamin for the season to a torn ACL, so this move makes sense. Per Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports, the compensation is an undisclosed draft pick. This is the the kind of trade that happens often at this stage of the preseason and often involves a conditional draft pick — and generally a seventh-rounder — based on how much Norwood eventually contributes to the Panthers.

The emergence of rookie Tyler Lockett and presence of young receivers Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams made Norwood expendable in Seattle.

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Martavis Bryant suspension becomes official

Martavis Bryant AP

We still don’t know whether the Patriots will have quarterback Tom Brady for the regular-season opener. But we now know that the Steelers won’t have two key offensive weapons due to suspension.

Running back Le’Veon Bell previously was suspended two games for violating the substance-abuse policy. Receiver Martavis Bryant has now been suspended four games for violating the substance-abuse policy.

“We are disappointed in Martavis’ actions that has led to his four-game suspension,” Steelers G.M. Kevin Colbert said in a team-issued release. “It is a disappointment to our entire organization as well as our fans, but we will continue to support Martavis during his suspension. It is very unfortunate his actions have put our team in this situation to begin the year, but we are confident he will learn from his mistake and return in excellent shape in Week Five.”

It was more than a mistake; it was a series of violations of the substance-abuse policy that culminated in the four-game suspension, with Bryant consistently choosing a banned substance over football. Now, he’ll have to unequivocally choose football, or he’ll eventually face a 10-game suspension and, in time, a full-year banishment.

The Steelers apparently have chosen to stick with Bryant. Five years ago, they abruptly dumped receiver Santonio Holmes onto the Jets after Holmes was suspended four games under the substance-abuse policy.

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